Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship

The Supreme Court late on Wednesday sided with religious challengers to New York state’s latest coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court barred New York authorities from enforcing some limits on the number of people attending services in churches and synagogues in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The ruling highlighted the court's recent rightward tilt as newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Supreme Court unanimously sides with Catholic adoption agency that turned away same-sex couples MORE sided with four other conservative justices in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal judges in the dissent.


The ruling marked a shift for the court, as earlier this year, before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgOcasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Juan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go MORE, it ruled 5-4 on similar cases out of Nevada and California.

Barrett was quickly confirmed to the bench following Ginsburg's death in September.

In the unsigned majority opinion, the majority ruled for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America, who argued that New York's caps on the number of people who could attend services in designated coronavirus hot spots violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment due to the orders being more restrictive than on other facilities.

In court papers, New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoFoo Fighters, Dave Chapelle cover 'Creep' at first MSG show since pandemic Katie Hill says 'it would take a lot' to convince her to run again for House New York City moving thousands of people from hotels back to shelters MORE (D) had argued that restrictions on houses of worship were necessary in order to stem the surge of coronavirus cases in the state.

Lower courts had sided with New York in the case.

Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchStudent athletes or independent contractors? Supreme Court moves the goalposts on the NCAA The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Supreme Court rules against NCAA in dispute over student-athlete compensation MORE wrote of his ruling that it seemed contradictory to say it was unsafe to go to church but not to shop for a new bike.

"So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike," Gorsuch wrote.